The decade in which Maslow published his hierarchy of needs was defined by war and the rise and fall of the New (dominant) Woman. This is also the decade that sees Betty Grable become the most popular pin-up girl to American soldiers fighting WWII.
America’s economy was leaving the Depression era of the 1930’s behind and facing a war it won, and that brought with it a post-war prosperity from the second half of the 1940’s.
The 1940’s started with the attack on Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 that forced the US declaration of war on Japan, and its subsequent involvement in World War II.
Casablanca and its “theme of sacrifice” (Umberto Eco, 1995) was released in 1942. “It was this theme which resonated with a wartime audience that was reassured by the idea that painful sacrifice and going off to war could be romantic gestures done for the greater good.” (Eco, 1995)
The US drops 2 atomic bombs in Japan, one in Hiroshima on the 6th of August 1945, and the second one in Nagasaki on the 9th of August of the same year. Six days later on August the 15th Japan surrenders ending World War II.
The Baby Boom
In 1946, live births in the U.S. surged from 222,721 in January to 339,499 in October. By the end of the 1940s, about 32 million babies had been born, compared with 24 million in the 1930s. The baby boom triggered a housing boom, a consumption boom and a boom in the labor force, mainly for the males. Between 1940 and 1960, the nation’s GDP jumped more than $300,000 million. (Wikipedia, 2011)
…And Freud, Freud, Freud
“In the 1940’s American psychoanalysts had began to reinterpret Freudian concepts in light of their cultural awareness. But this didn’t prevent their literal application of Freud’s theory of femininity to American women…To Freud, women were a strange, inferior, less-than-human species. He saw them as childlike dolls, who existed in terms only of man’s love, to love man and serve his needs” (Friedan, 1963). The corner-stone of the Freudian theory of womanhood is the masculine conviction that “a woman is a castrated man” (Greer, 1971).
Society as it was when Freud lived prevented women from anything that might have stimulated their growth, but Freud was not interested in changing society, “only in helping man and woman adjust to it” (Friedan, 1963). However, although society had changed for women since the late 19th century, the application of Freud’s teachings to American women was literal as if they were still living in the 1880’s.
In 1947 Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia F. Farnham wrote “Modern women, The Lost sex” which became a textbook in the academic US curriculum under the title “marriage and family” (Millett, 1977). The book has a grudge against feminism and the sexual revolution which turned women into the “lost sex”. “It should be apparent that, far from being a movement for the greater self-realization of women…feminism was the very negation of femaleness…It bade women commit suicide as women, and attempt to live as men” (Lundberg and Farnham, 1947).